Huge turnovers were the order for the day and the Bills defense served them up hot and crispy. The Buffalo Bills gobbled up the turnovers like they were Big Apple pastries fresh out of the oven., and used them to devour the Jets 23-20 in a highly emotional game.
The defense had it's highs and lows, but the highs won out and the defense played a spectacular game in helping to produce a crucial win to keep the Bills' playoff hopes alive. With the victory, the Bills now stand at 4-4 at the midseason mark.
Steve Christie was called upon to kick a 34-yarder with three ticks left on the clock, the wind at his back and the game tied at 20.
The Jets had earlier blocked Christie's 44-yard field goal attempt, but the Bills veteran kicker was only concentrating on making good contact with the ball.
"There wasn't much to think about, just keeping it down the middle," Christie commented. "I have to hit them from wherever we end up."
The Drive to Victory
Doug Flutie was a master in getting the Bills down the field for the winning field goal. With the score tied at 20 and overtime looming in Doug's face, he found Peerless Price open at the New York 40 giving the Bills a first down to keep the drive alive and almost putting the ball in Christie's range. Next, Sammy Morris somehow caught a pass that he made while doing a juggling act with the ball and that catch did the trick of putting the Bills in Christie's range. After a couple plays, the Bills were in perfect position for Christie's 34-yard game winner.
The Bills ‘D' came up with 4 turnovers, one that resulted in a Henry Jones touchdown on his pick of a Vinnie Testaverde pass in the second quarter. Testaverde, who is not known to throw too many interceptions, threw a pass right into Jones' hands at the Jets 45. Jones had to have the help of one blocker to clear his path to the endzone.
"We were in a zone on that one and once I saw him throw it I knew I had a chance to score as long as I caught it," Jones said. "I think there was only one guy ahead of me for the Jets and Keith (Newman) was up there with him so I just had to run it in."
One of the big changes that the Bills employed in their defense to contain the aerial show of Testaverde was to use a nickel defense.
"We usually go regular or dime, throwing that nickel in there was a nice little wrinkle for them," said Jones. "It keeps three of our better players on the field. Bringing in the extra DB to cover that third wide receiver that they may have in. I'm surprised that we haven't gone to that earlier because that's a good way to get some of your best players matched up with some of their best players."
Sam Cowart recovered two crucial fumbles. One was when the Jets drove all the way to the Bills 10 with Buffalo in front 17-7 late in the first half. Testaverde was hit before he could release the ball and Cowart recovered to prevent any score by the Jets. He also picked up a Curtis Martin fumble late in the fourth quarter that stopped another New York drive.
Tale of Two Aged Quarterbacks
It was the Doug Flutie vs. Vinnie Testaverde show - the battle of two former Heisman Trophy winners. Vinnie, who is about to turn 37 lost the battle against the 38-year old Flutie.
Testaverde, who guided the Jets to a miracle comeback against the Dolphins on MNF last week, almost did it again against the Bills. Testaverde completed 28 of 38 passes for 293 yards and 2 TDs. The Bills defense forced Vinnie into throwing two pivotal interceptions and one fumble.
One of Vinnie's favorite targets was Laveranues Coles, who broke the Bills secondary and with several clutch catches. Coles led all Jets receivers with 131 yards on 5 receptions. Testaverde spread the wealth around, completing 6 to Wayne Chrebet, Curtis Martin and Richie Anderson.
Meanwhile, Flute was 18 of 35 for 253 yards and no picks. His best pass was a 52-yard bomb to Eric Moulds who got down to the Jets 1. However, Moulds was tagged with an offensive interference penalty when he caught a Flutie pass in the endzone right after that. Flutie's favorite target was Moulds, who caught 6 for 137 yards. Morris grabbed 5 for 39 yards.
Flutie managed the Bills offense magnificently, threw when he had to and did not turn the ball over. For the second time in three weeks, he directed the team down the field for the winning field goal. Unlike Rob Johnson, who was sacked an average of 5 times a game, Flutie was sacked only once by the Jets for a 1 yard loss. The only thing that flawed Flutie's game were the 9 passes that were batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Player and Play of the Game
This was a close call. Three Bills had stellar games and any one of them could have been chosen as the star of the game. Eric Moulds, who caught 6 for 137 yards would be a clear cut choice with many experts. There is Sammy Morris who did his best impression of Thurman Thomas by both running and receiving impressively. The pick here goes to Sam Cowart, who recovered two crucial fumbles and made the play of the game when he stopped Richie Anderson (no relation) dead in his tracks after receiving a screen pass from Testaverde for a 5-yard loss. That forced the Jets to go for the tying field goal late in the 4th quarter. Had Cowart not made that bruising tackle and Anderson was allowed to get the first down, the Jets probably would have won the game.
Al Groh, the Jets head coach, who right now would win Coach of the Year hands down for his job of leading the Jets to a 6-2 record, gave kudos to the Bills for finally shutting down Testaverde, especially in the fourth quarter when Vinnie and the Jets are most dangerous.
"I will credit Buffalo because they won a game that they had to win and they did an excellent job," Al Groh said after the game. "They did all the things they had to win."
Like the Bills did in the first meeting of the two clubs, turnovers were the key factors in the game.
"Turnovers will cause you to lose and that was confirmed today. That is one of the things that made us an easy mark. When you have four turnovers like that you make a game close or sometimes provide yourself, even for a good team, too many hurdles to over."
"I have nothing to whine about," Groh continued. "The Bills did everything they needed to win this game... (I'm) Mentally disappointed, any time you loss a game you are mentally disappointed."
Even though the Bills are only 4-4, they have reason to celebrate as if they took over first place. Beating the Jets has been no easy matter the past few years, especially with Flutie at the helm. The Jets have always been able to devise a special defense to contain him and keep Flutie in the pocket. Today they were able to do that on a limited basis, but even in the pocket, Flutie was effective when his passes weren't batted down.
"Doug played probably his best game against the Jets," said Phillips. "They contained him pretty well, they knew a lot more about our spread, but he still made plays. That scramble for a first down that he made shows you that the magic is still there. Two minutes left, and he takes us down to kick the field goal and win the game. When the pressure's on, he's done that a couple of weeks."
That final drive where Flutie marched the Bills 57-yard in the last 2:20 of the game showed the poise great veteran quarterbacks display. It's something that Rob Johnson should learn from studying Flutie.
"We had plenty of time on the clock," noted Flutie. "We just needed to go out and get first downs. The first one is usually the toughest, and it proved to be just that. That first one got our momentum going and we needed that. Joe Pendry made some great calls on that last drive. Our young guys really stepped up on that last drive, Sammy (Morris) made some plays and Peerless (Price) caught a big third down pass."
"It was frustrating at times," Flutie said about the Jets ability to come right back after Bills scores. "It looked like the Jets were moving on us the whole day, but our defense stepped up and made the big plays; interceptions, fumbles, scored a touchdown. They made the big plays the entire game. Was this a must-win game? This was a big-win for us. Every week is like that. When we were 3-3 last week, we needed that win. It was a must-win in week one. That's the nature of this game. I think it goes without saying that each and every week in this league is a must-win. Next week in New England is the same thing."
Copyright © 2000 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.
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